Law in the Internet Society

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MarcRoitmanPaper1 6 - 19 Feb 2009 - Main.EbenMoglen
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-- MarcRoitman - 07 Dec 2008
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  the title: what unexpected or non-dogmatic observations have you to share, and how came you by them?

  • This second draft doesn't make things better, it makes them worse. The first draft had the specious coherence of the old account which, while primarily convincing to wealthy imperialists, was at least polished smooth by the hands of all the lobbyists who touched it over the decades from the repeal of the Corn Laws to the most recent myocardial infarction of finance capitalism. This draft was supposed to be the place for the new ideas in political economy sparked by the changes we have been studying together, but we have lost coherence without gaining insight. You have taken out the obviously absurd illustrations that history has revealed to be false, and you've inserted a bunch of language designed to make me feel you agree with what you think I think, including my own language thrown in verbatim when paraphrase wouldn't suit. But that hasn't actually produced new political economy, just an even more unconvincing rendition of the old song.

  • In the first place, you're still operating as though the best account of globalization available in the tradition of European political economy were David Ricardo's. But the most relevant account of the meaning of free trade in the context of globalization was given by Marx, not Ricardo, and you don't deal with it at all. You say that the primary problem of capitalism is how to distribute scarce resources, even as the present situation shows once again the correctness of the view that a basic, probably the basic, problem of capitalism is overproduction. Next, you would need to show the relevance of the old account to the current situation by explaining how a hypothetical "unfree trade" system would establish national origins for and raise tariff barriers against bitstreams without destroying its communication links with the outside world. You don't deal with this issue, or consider how the free software and free culture movements model the impossibility of controls and therefore obsolete the traditional account, which assumes borders with customs controls and---as the Blinder leading the blind points out---stuff in boxes that can be refused entry. And you don't confront the primary overarching difference between early 19th-century political economy and the world of now: the contemporary frictionless, instantaneous mobility of capital. One way of approaching these issues, by a process of enjambment with 19th-century thought somewhat like your own, though taking a different starting-point, can be found here. If you really want to understand what I think, that might help.

  • In one sense, we have moved forward. The first draft simply asserted the old ways of thought without considering that something could have changed since 1819. The current draft shows that the new intellectual architecture will not consist of patchwork manipulation of the old. But of an actual modernism, capable of explaining current circumstances and likely pathways of future development, there is no sign. I would repeat my prior advice---"ask a novel question within the scope of the title: what unexpected or non-dogmatic observations have you to share, and how came you by them?" The whole is too large for 1,000 words, but you can subdivide the problem and make some real progress by sharpening one fresh insight and explaining how you reached it. Taking what you think are my ideas and offering them back to me won't do that job.

Revision 6r6 - 19 Feb 2009 - 14:49:35 - EbenMoglen
Revision 5r5 - 19 Feb 2009 - 06:42:04 - MarcRoitman
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